May 26, 2017

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Authors Posts by Wan Ting Koh

Wan Ting Koh

Wan Ting Koh
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As field correspondent, Wan Ting likes chasing leads. When she's not doing that, the former Lit Major enjoys watching horror films and filling her awfully chocolate quota in her free time. You can reach her at wanting@themiddleground.sg

Photo By Shawn Danker
The crowd begins assembling for the Pink Dot formation light up.

by Wan Ting Koh

MORE than half of the student leaders surveyed in a forum said that they will accept but not encourage alternative family structures to the traditional family structure.

This was the conclusion of a four-stage poll, where 500 student leaders, comprising of junior college, polytechnic and university students, were asked to choose between two options: to accept but not encourage alternative family structures or to educate the public about homosexuality and gradually open up as a society.

A majority – 56.5 per cent – voted to accept but not encourage alternative family structures, while the rest – 43.5 per cent – voted for educating the public about homosexuality and gradually opening up.

These youths were surveyed about their views on Singapore affairs at a forum by the Association for Public Affairs at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy last year, as part of the association’s inaugural project, called the SG100 Compass (Youth Edition). Their responses were compiled in the Dream Future Report and a separate report with policy recommendations was submitted to members of the Cabinet last week, said the association’s president Charles Phua.

Apart from policy-related issues, the student leaders were asked for their standpoint on three contentious issues: If Singapore should adopt a welfare or workfare stance, how open Singapore should be as a society and whether there should be freedom of speech.

Students were asked their take on family structures as an indicator of how open they wanted society to be. In the first round, students were given three options, which included the choice for supporting traditional family structures only. The second round took place after various positions were argued and discussed by students leaders, while the option for educating the public about homosexuality was only included in the third round, after a Question and Answer section with an expert.

In the final round, participants were limited to the two of the most popular options from the previous round.

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Amongst those who were all for traditional families was Raffles Junior College student Emma He.

She wrote in her position paper that it was important for the G’s policies to promote traditional families as children raised in single parent households were “often disadvantaged in terms of resources, guidance, and the stability of their familial background”. She added that Singapore was still a “predominantly conservative society”, hence it was important to reflect this in policies.

Another participant, UniSIM college student Nitish Singh, supported embracing individual choices on family structure. In his position paper, he wrote that even though the majority of Singaporeans were still conservative, not giving equal rights to those in alternative family structures was a form of discrimination which shouldn’t be practised.

“People should not be treated any less just because of who they fall in love with… By us accepting individual choice on family structures, we are fostering the true concept of equality where we respect every individual for who they are and not treat minorities as inferior”, said Mr Singh.

Here is the perspective of a student leader who adopted a more conciliatory view – that Singapore should accept the existence of alternative family structures but not promote or encourage them – reproduced in full:

 

Ms Saiyidah Sainal, UniSIM College

Today I would be elaborating on the reason and need for the society to accept the existence and not discriminate alternative family structures.

With globalization, different cultures and views are more spread across and exchanged so much that ideas that was once foreign to one culture, become acceptable now. This effect is being accelerated with movie stars such as Angelina Jolie that had children before marrying and the world champions her for being able to successfully raise her adopted and biological children. A by-product of this has resulted in the build-up and existence of alternative family structures that differ from the usual setting such as single parenthood, underage parents and cohabiting adults.

Discrimination is not only exclusive to judgement from other members of society but as well as discrimination by government policies against such alternative families. In a recent article by Teo You Yann, it was revealed that there are some benefits that single parenthood does not currently benefit from, such as 8 additional weeks of paid maternity leave and tax incentives. This is also the case for families such as underage parents and cohabiting adults where they are not receiving the same form of benefits such as buying of HDB flats. They would have to wait till they are 35 to do so.

However, the government do take measures to assist children from alternative families by having various policies to help the children in their education programmes. These policies are independent of the marital status of their parent. Thus with such steps, we are slowly but surely showcasing existence of alternative family structures in our society.

Singapore is well known for its meritocratic ruling which does not favour one group over another. By not embracing the different family structures seen today, Singapore is bound to face certain losses especially in this globalised world. Due to the changing global landscape, the concept of family units are evolving and it is widely debated that it shouldn’t just be based on a nuclear family structure that has been propagated constantly to us.

Due to the growing number of alternative families such as single parenthood, cohabiting adults and underage parents seen in Singapore, it is high time that society should lend a caring shoulder and hand to aid them away from discrimination.

Though, I would like to stress that although I have been addressing on the need to embrace the existence of such alternative family structures as a part of life, we do not need to promote or encourage such formations. Mr Lee Hsien Loong commented that Singapore still a relatively conservative society that is deeply rooted in traditional family value of a nuclear family. The society is still deeply embedded in the need for our society to hold Asian values as a part of the Singapore identity.

Furthermore, the article explained that such family formations do have a place in Singapore and they are not discriminated for their way of life. However, he mentioned that Singapore is still not ready to legalise homosexual marriages because it still offends a significant group of conservative members of the society such as the ones who advocate traditional family formations and religious groups.

While it seems that the Americans have managed to successfully affect a paradigm shift in the battle for equal rights for homosexual, the same, however, cannot be said for Singaporeans. This is because Singapore is still deeply rooted in Asian values that make it hard for the society to change overnight.

However, over the years, we have seen how globalisation become more viral; thoughts and preference are slowly evolving. The idea of an alternative formation should be slowly introduced into the society to allow for the older and more traditional people in the society to eventually accept such forms of family structures.

What we need is a caring society that sits on kindness and love. That extends to help families in need even alternative ones. The world is changing and many views are being put across. Regardless of different backgrounds we need to work together as a nation to achieve progress in our society.

 

Position paper reproduced with permission of Association for Public Affairs president and Organising Chairman of SG100 Compass Charles Phua.

Featured image by Shawn Danker.

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by Wan Ting Koh

YOU might not think you’re producing a lot of waste but have you actually recorded how much trash you accumulate every day?

I did a “waste diary” for the past week just to track the quantity and type of waste I produce in my day-to-day activities. This included taking snapshots of trash, at the moment they become trash (i.e. food wrappers right after food is consumed).

After one week, I’m not proud to report that I’ve generated enough trash to fill half of a plastic bag (incidentally also waste – but one that I found lying around in office) measuring around 30cm by 45cm. And that was only for the rubbish I generated while at the office. In total, I would say I generated around 800g of packaging waste during the week.

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Taking snapshots of the rubbish made me mindful of how much unnecessary excess I was producing. I noticed an excess of plastic bags for sure. If I had brought a food container to store meals – for both takeaway and homecooked ones – I could have cut down on much of the excess plastic. Convenience was one of the biggest reasons I turned to plastics and other disposables.

I wouldn’t say I had difficulty reducing my waste since I started the diary fully intending to track my “natural” wastage without taking particular effort to reduce it. Most of the excess could have been avoided simply by switching to non-disposables, or putting in a little more effort to clean up after myself.

So after a week of gathering rubbish, here are the top six kinds of waste I generated:

 

  1. Tissues

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This is the one item I cannot live without. From the moment I wake up to the moment just before I go to bed, at least six pieces of tissues would have crossed my hands. One would definitely be used to wipe my nose in the morning, due to my morning sinus issues. Due to habit, and for hygiene sake’s, I used another piece of tissue to wipe my mouth after meals. Once, I spilt a bit of tea on my work table and had to wipe it up. Sometimes, the pieces of tissue exceed five when I went to fast-food places such as MacDonald’s or Mos Burger. The meals are likely to come with a stack of logo-emblazoned tissues which staff will grab for you in their haste. While it’s unlikely that they would ask you how many pieces of tissues you want, you could return them the extra ones, I suppose.

 

 

  1. Disposable utensils

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These are just a lazy man’s way of having takeaway and instant meals due to the added incentive of not having to wash up afterwards. I use a pair of wooden, disposable chopsticks for some of my takeaway meals. When I have a hot drink, I would use a plastic stirrer as well. 

 

  1. Plastic cups and containers

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The reason for using these takeaway plastic cups is the same as for utensils – for convenience sake. I would guess that for hawkers, they might also be better able to estimate the quantity or serving of food to give if they can pack it up in standardised containers, compared to reusable lunch boxes from patrons.

 

4. Plastic bags

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There are those used to contain small snacks and finger food, and there are those used as carriers. I used the clear, small-sized plastic bags to pack my breakfast from home. These bags I would throw away after I’m done. Sometimes when I buy siew mai from the coffee shop, the coffee shop auntie packs them into the small bag and then places the bag into a carrier – that’s two plastic bags used just for one snack.

 

5. Plastic food wrappers

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These come with pre-packaged food, and I honestly don’t see how we can avoid them, unless we avoid buying the food altogether.

 

6. Wrapping paper

It’s the season of giving after all. And most people would be giving, if not receiving, presents that are wrapped with colourful wrapping paper. I presented my friend with a presentable-looking wrapped gift a few days ago at a Christmas exchange, and in turn, received one too. However, I easily overlooked the wrapping paper as a form of waste until a friend pointed it out. On hindsight, I wouldn’t mind if the presents were wrapped with recycled wrapping or even used paper.

 

This piece is part of a series that highlights the need to #ReduceYourWasteline, in collaboration with Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore.

 

Featured image IMG_0814 by Flickr user Brian Jeffery Beggerly. (CC BY 2.0)

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by Wan Ting Koh

SAY hi to Mr Sim Say Hai, one of Singapore’s most tech-savvy uncle.

He has an iPad Mini, a 27-inch Lenovo desktop computer, an iPhone 6s Plus and an Apple Watch, all of which he uses seamlessly. Not impressed yet? Consider this: This uncle is 92 years old.

His age has been no barrier to his love of learning and tinkering with new technology. While others of his generation might shy away from gadgets, Mr Sim embraces them for their perceived convenience to his life. Plus, learning how to use them has become second nature for the retiree, who only got to learn how to use the computer after he retired at age 58.

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Mr Sim using his iPad Mini, which he brings to his church meetings on Fridays and reads his meeting minutes from.

TMG visited Mr Sim at his Serangoon Road home one morning after first meeting him at an Honour film screening earlier this year. Mr Sim had attended the event as a guest of honour as a star in one of the featured films. The film, produced by his granddaughter, was an homage to Mr Sim, who was a pioneer in Singapore’s then budding telecoms industry. The year was 1948 when Mr Sim started working in what is now known as Singtel. Back then, it was called The Telecommunications Department of Singapore.

While Mr Sim did not attend university, the English-educated man managed to land a telegraph operator job in the Telecoms Department where he sent and received telegraphic messages. His true calling, however, lay in mechanics of the equipment – something which captivated him.

“I was interested in it, so on my own I started learning about electrical things. In school, I was interested in science – chemistry and physics,” said Mr Sim.

So he bought his own textbooks and studied. He sat for external qualifying exams on topics to do with telegraph, radio and engineering and passed all of them. He impressed the station engineer-in-charge who converted Mr Sim to a junior technical officer overseeing Very High Frequency (VHF) telecommunication signals. From there, he worked his way to the top.

“Towards the end, without any university paper, I was promoted to position of engineer,” he recalled.

His journey with the telecommunications industry may have ended when Mr Sim retired at 58, but his learning did not. Between the 1980s and the 1990s when the computer industry started booming, Mr Sim decided to pick up computer skills on his own.

When asked why he didn’t simply sit back and enjoy his golden age, the grandfather of nine, who stays with a grandson, said he had occasion to type some letters and send emails. He would be “very happy” if he could learn it, he said.

He described using an old secondhand computer given by his daughter and learning how to type from a typing tutor software. Eventually, he acquired Microsoft programmes such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel.

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Technology was not his only interest. During his retirement, Mr Sim also dabbled in photography – the fruits of his hobby were all kept neatly categorised in folders according to date in his Lenovo desktop. Most were family photos which he had taken with the digital camera.

It did not stop there for Mr Sim, who went on to learn Photoshop five to 10 years ago in order to edit the pictures. “I bought [a digital camera] and found that I can take pictures, [if] I can print and enlarge, it will look so nice,” said Mr Sim.

He went to the library to borrow a book for Photoshop and photocopied sections of it. He would refer to these notes when he encountered something he didn’t know how to do. From there, he learnt how to insert, delete, brighten, sharpen, paste or change the colour of an image.

Nowadays, Mr Sim’s use of Photoshop is confined to creating birthday invitations which he sends to family and friends through email ahead of his birthday on August 3. For last year’s invitation, Mr Sim took a selfie, printed out the photograph, traced his features on tracing paper, then scanned the sketched image back into his computer. From there, he superimposed the scanned image in his birthday invitation along with the details and Clipart.

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Mr Sim did his own birthday invitation, replete with decorations, text and a sketched portrait of his face.

When asked if he will continue making personalised invitations, he immediately said: “I will.” “I enjoy this kind of thing. I felt satisfaction,” said Mr Sim, adding that he considered it a success, going by the favourable feedback from friends and family members who said it was “very humorous”.

“Those days, I only wanted to learn small things. But it becomes more and more. I became more involved. I wanted to learn how to send and receive, I wanted to learn how to type apart from the typewriter,” he said. “When you need certain things, you will try and satisfy it.”

These days, Mr Sim uses his various gadgets to check and read emails, the Bible, surf the internet and watch DVDs.

 

Wise words

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Mr Sim answers a call on his Apple Watch.

Mr Sim’s learning journey hasn’t been all smooth sailing though. He’s had his share of challenges, one of which is age. “It is easy to learn. But when you don’t do it every day, then you forget. At this age, I cannot remember a lot of things, I forget more than I learn,” he said.

“The connection inside is broken,” he added, pointing at his head.

But he is adamant that others younger than him should not stop learning, even though some from his generation might be averse to learning new technology.

“If you are 70 years old, you should learn. At that age your brain is still working well,” he said.

His advice to others trying to get started? Introduce them to simple functions, such as sending emails or chatting through WhatsApp.

“You can remember one or two things enough what. Remember how to contact and learn how to increase contacts. Very soon you will want to know how to do all sorts of things. But you must get them to do simple things,” he said.

“Once they find that it is not difficult, they will do more.”

 

This article is part of a series on SkillsFuture, in collaboration with MOE and SSG. Read the other pieces here:

  1. Poly vs Private degrees: It’s not the money that matters
  2. Private degrees: data needs to tell a fuller skills story 
  3. 5 new jobs that didn’t exist a decade ago
  4. SMACK IN THE MIDDLE: Keys to success
  5. 5 skills employers want you to have in tomorrow’s job market
  6. Don’t underestimate ‘soft skills’ in your career
  7. 50 Faces: What is success to you?
  8. Got an F in school? There are still ‘100 ways’ to be successful
  9. SMACK IN THE MIDDLE: More skills, more agile, more resilient
  10. 50 Faces: The big gig economy

 

Featured image by Najeer Yusof.

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by Wan Ting Koh

IF YOUR mobile subscription plan ends in 2018, you might want to hold off your subscription for the newest mobile operator in town.

Total Peripherals Group (TPG) Telecom, which hails from Australia, may be offering more competitive rates for its mobile plans, which are cheaper than its biggest telco back home.

TPG defied expectations to beat hot favourite, local start-up MyRepublic, to become the fourth telco in Singapore, following the end of the new entrant spectrum auctions yesterday (Dec 14). It made the winning bid of $105 million for the spectrum on offer.

TPG has made no announcements about its mobile plan prices but the consensus with industry experts appears to signal that it would offer cheaper prices here, even though its current mobile plans in Australia are more expensive than those offered by incumbents here.

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OCBC Investment Research analyst Eugene Chua said that given the time needed for the fourth telco to shore up its infrastructure and expand its network coverage, the “most likely way it will try to gain market share is to compete on pricing”, meaning, it would have to attract customers with lower prices.

While analysing MyRepublic as a potential telco in an April report, Maybank analyst Gregory Yap said that it would have to use either low pricing or offer unlimited data as “market-disruption levers” in an already saturated mobile scene.

Said Mr Yap: “These are the only two avenues available to it as mobile penetration [in Singapore] is already 150 percent. There are no more new users to capture,” he said.

Even TPG’s defeated fourth telco rival, MyRepublic, said that TPG is likely to offer competitive prices. Said its chief executive officer (CEO) Malcolm Rodrigues of TPG: “They know how to operate cheaply and offer low-cost prices — you can expect good pricing in the market when they enter.”

All this talk about pricing brings to mind how Singtel’s CEO claimed in February that a fourth carrier would lead to a price war. Ms Chua Sock Koong had said: “The only way that they can gain customers will be by way of reducing prices… The existing operators would look at how best to respond. Clearly just leading prices down, it’s not good for the sustainability of the industry.”

You can expect the three incumbents to work a little harder, but whether or not there is an all-out price war remains to be seen. Until then, here are three things you need to know about up-and-coming fourth carrier TPG, which started out as a hardware company selling computers and printers in 1986.

 

1. TPG is an underdog in mobile services.

TPG is the fourth telco to go against local giants Singtel, M1, and Starhub. Even in Australia, TPG is an underdog in the mobile market, claiming only 2.8 per cent of the market as of June this year.

In terms of pricing, however, TPG’s slate of mobile plan packages in Australia is actually cheaper than the biggest telco back home. For a SIM-only 10GB plan for example, Australia’s dominant telco, Telstra, charges A$70 (S$74.70) a month, while TPG charges A$39.99.

TPG only offers SIM-only plans, and a comparison of Singtel, Starhub, and M1’s same data plans show that their SIM-only plans are still cheaper than TPG’s Australian plans.

TPG prices its 7GB data plan at A$34.99 while Singtel prices the equivalent data plan at $25.35. A 3GB SIM-only plan with TPG costs A$29.99, while the equivalent from M1 and Starhub cost $20 and $21.45 a month respectively. However, if TPG continues to play the same strategy as it does in Australia, its mobile plan prices in Sing dollars may well undercut the incumbents’.

What to expect? Possibly competitive prices from TPG here in Singapore. But whether prices will undercut current ones by much still remains to be seen.

TPG offers four options for its SIM-only mobile plan:

The 1.5GB plan goes for A$19.99 per month and includes unlimited calls to TPG mobiles and home phones.

The 3GB plan goes for A$29.99 with unlimited calls and SMSes to standard AU numbers.

The 7GB plan retails at A$34.99 with unlimited calls and SMSes to Standard AU numbers.

The 10GB data option is priced at A$39.99 with unlimited calls and SMSes to standard AU numbers.

 

2. But when it comes to broadband service, it’s the top dog in Australia.

TPG is now the second largest company providing broadband services in Australia, thanks to an acquisition of competing Internet Service Provider (ISP) iiNet in September last year. It’s now one of the four major ISPs there.

It has about 1.87 million broadband subscribers around Australia, 885,000 of which are TPG customers, while nearly a million subscribers are from iiNet.

In its press statement yesterday, TPG said that in addition to the cost of the spectrum, it could incur a capital investment of between $200 million and $300 million to establish a mobile network with nationwide coverage by September 2018. Both costs are expected to be funded through TPG’s existing debt facilities and cash generated from its Australian operations.

What to expect? Could TPG do a reverse MyRepublic and offer broadband service after it rolls out its mobile plans? We think it’s possible.

 

3. Who’s the alpha dog leading TPG?

TPG’s CEO, 60-year-old David Teoh, is a Malaysia-born Australian Chinese. He is listed in Forbes as the ninth richest person in Australia with a net worth of US$1.58 billion (S$2.28 billion). Not much is known about Mr Teoh, who is described by Australian media as reclusive. The only publicly available photo of Mr Teoh was taken outside of his Sydney home by a lucky photographer.

What not to expect? Don’t expect Mr Teoh to go as public as MyRepublic’s plain-speaking CEO Malcolm Rodrigues.

Other photos show him covering his face, or speeding off in a car as he attempts to avoid photographers. The Australian Financial Review reported that Mr Teoh “accidentally” knocked down one of its photographers in his haste to escape in his car. Mr Teoh later stopped to ask the fallen photographer if he was okay and added a request for privacy.

What we know is that Mr Teoh has four sons who are involved in start-ups selling clothes, accessories and consumer technology, and that he moved to Australia from Malaysia in 1986. That was also when he built his company from scratch together with his wife, Taiwan-born Vicky Teoh.

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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by Wan Ting Koh

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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by Wan Ting Koh

DON’T be surprised if you are charged 20 cents more when you park your vehicle around Bendemeer Market and Food Centre during the busy lunch period.

Charges during designated hours for some three out of four carparks in the Bendemeer area have increased since a week ago and motorists are mostly unaware, if not resigned, to the extra charges.

Since last Wednesday (Dec 1), the Housing & Development Board (HDB) introduced differential pricing for carparks that face high demand from morning to mid-afternoon. For the three carparks, it means charging 80 cents, instead of the usual 60 cents, per half hour, between 7am and 2pm from Mondays to Saturdays. The 60 cent per half hour rate applies from 2pm to 7am the next day.

Carpark sign showing rates

A carpark sign beside the gantry showing peak hour charges. Photo by Wan Ting Koh.

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The affected carparks include two along Serangoon Road – below Block 22 and Block 34 – and one along Bendemeer Road, between Block 30 and 31.

It’s unclear how many other carparks have also introduced these extra charges but they coincide with the fee hike for short-term and season parking. From Dec 1, parking charges were raised by 10 cents, from 50 cents to 60 cents per half hour for public carparks outside of the restricted zone or outside designated areas close to the restricted zone.

In a response to TMG’s queries, HDB, which manages the three carparks, said: “From 1 December 2016, HDB extended differential pricing to carparks where there was high demand for short-term parking during peak hours.” It added that peak hour timings differ across carparks and that season parking holders were not affected by these charges.

This isn’t the first time HDB has resorted to using different rates to control demand. HDB said that differential parking charges were first implemented in 2009 at two HDB carparks: The Pinnacle@Duxton and Tekka Market. The board did not reply to our question of which other carparks currently apply peak hour charges outside of Bendemeer.

Motorists entering carparks with peak hour charges will see a yellow sign with the words “Higher parking charges during peak hours” hung at the gantry barrier.

Beside the gantry, a carpark signboard lists the parking rates for every half hour, including the new peak hour charges. When asked if motorists were notified about the peak hour charges, HDB referred to these signs.

However, it seems that motorists remain unaware of the peak hour charges, which was announced in June this year.

Madam Poon Lee Kheng, 60, said that even though she visits Bendemeer Market three times a week to buy groceries and lunch, she hadn’t noticed the peak hour charges until we asked her about it.

“I will still come here because I am used to this place. I have alternatives but if I go to a new place, I will have to look for things again. I am familiar with the stalls here,” said the housewife, who had parked her car at about 12:30pm.

A lunch-time visit to the carpark between Block 30 and 31, which is next to Bendemeer Market, showed a steady stream of cars entering the already-full carpark. Most cars, however, could find lots within 15 minutes.

To Ms Roshah Puasa, 45, a delivery worker, said more could have been done to inform motorists about the peak hour charges. She was at the carpark beneath Block 22 for breakfast around 9am.

“For us doing delivery, carpark charge matters. Depending on my delivery, I usually come for about one to two hours so my charge would increase by about 80 cents,” she said, adding that she would park her van at another carpark, and walk over in the future.

However, Mr Ganthimani Rajamani, who visited the food centre for lunch in a white pickup, disagreed. The full-time driver said that 80 cents was okay, compared to carparks in the Central Business District. The 34-year-old said he was aware of the peak hour charges since he visited the area only last week.

“It’s only a 20 cent increase, no problem,” he said.

When asked whether it applies peak hour charges, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), which manages carparks mostly in the city centre, said that its practice was to set carpark charges according to parking demand in the city.

“This includes charging more if necessary during peak hours. The charges are reflected on the signage at carpark entrance,” said a URA spokesman.

 

Featured image Upper deck of a multi-storey car park at Holland Village, Singapore by Wikimedia Commons user Takamaxa. (CC0 1.0)

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by Wan Ting Koh

PLEASE, don’t die. But if you’re dead, we’ll move on.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) today yet again reiterated its stand that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is here to stay – with or without the United States, even if it’s hobbling with one foot in the grave. And even if it has to be called by another name.

“I would not pronounce it dead,” said Ms Mary Elizabeth Chelliah, the ministry’s deputy director of international trade. “While we are in a conundrum on what is going to happen to TPP, let’s see what we can do with the good things in TPP that businesses like, that we like, and see how we can develop it maybe into RCEP or into good regulatory practices that are happening elsewhere.”

RCEP, or Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, is a free trade agreement between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and six trade partners.

Ms Chelliah was speaking as a panel member during a forum discussion about business regulations and the uncertainty of the TPP, after President-elect Donald Trump expressed his intention to axe the deal. The US is one of the 12 nations involved in the TPP deal.

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The forum, called the Business Regulation Forum, was organised by the Financial Times and held at a ballroom in Four Seasons Hotel.

The senior director’s remarks echoed her ministry’s statement two weeks ago, when it said that Singapore was committed to ratifying the TPP. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has also made similar comments, saying that Singapore will amend the legislation to bring the TPP into effect by next year during his speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Peru last month.

Ms Chelliah added that while the TPP was not yet dead, businesses needed certainty to progress. This meant that even without the TPP, the Republic could still pursue certain regulatory aspects of the trade pact. She did not specify which aspects these would be, but they could include the formation of a Regulatory Coherence committee, a component of the deal that would facilitate an exchange of information and cooperation between each nation’s regulatory agency.

She added that there were many “good forums”, such as the APEC, where members can proceed with the work on regulatory reform.  

“Although TPP may not move, what does it really mean, does it really mean just the market access?” asked Ms Chelliah. “Regulatory aspects can always move without the parties. I think that is the challenge for the 11 of us.” 

Her hope for the continuation of the TPP was echoed by another on the panel who was optimistic about the status of the TPP. Executive director of Asian Trade Centre, Deborah Elms said that the provision relating to the US’s participation in the TPP could be amended.

“You change that provision to allow TPP to go forward. You still have access to the US market which is fairly open… in the meantime you have all the good stuff you wanted out of the TPP including – crucially – regulatory reform,” she said.

Meanwhile other trade deals and initiatives such as the Asean Economic Community and the RCEP were touched on at the forum in a wider discussion about regulations and their effects on businesses.

Ms Chelliah’s panel discussion was the second today. Earlier, another panel spoke about the benefits and detriments of regulations in the region. Five members, including representatives from Heineken and Grab, discussed issues ranging from the need to have coherent regulations across countries to the need to have clear objectives behind regulations.
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One of the hot button issues mentioned was plain packaging for tobacco products, which removes tobacco companies’ trademarks from packaging. While health considerations were the main rationale behind this plain packaging, whether they will actually benefit consumers is another matter, said Mr Soh Kar Liang, who chairs the Asia-Pacific, Africa and Middle East Subcommittee of the Legislation and Regulation Committee of the International Trademark Association.
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by Wan Ting Koh

HER post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was so severe that she was admitted no fewer than 19 times into a hospital over seven years and was awarded more than $8 million in damages in a judgement that was released last Thursday (Dec 1).

The last admission was in February 2014, and Ms Siew Pick Chiang, 42, is still warded at Mount Elizabeth Hospital. She is expected to be discharged by the end of this month.

The businesswoman, who used to run a pre- and post-natal care firm with her mother, was hit by a bundle of overhead cables from a nearby worksite while cycling on a pavement in Pasir Ris in 2009. At the conclusion of a trial that lasted four years, Justice Woo Bih Li said that while Ms Siew’s physical injuries were “relatively minor”, her resulting PTSD was so serious that “it gave rise to a litany of medical issues”.

These include irritable bowel syndrome, vertigo, neck and back strain, memory issues such as amnesia, and spondylosis and fibromyalgia. She is unable to return to work.

The written judgement also showed that Ms Siew, who was pregnant at the time of the accident, visited no fewer than 13 clinics. Among the doctors who attended to her were cardiologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, ophthalmologists, respiratory specialists, prosthodontists and an ear, nose and throat specialist.

Her psychiatrist Dr Sim Li Ping said she was the worst case of PTSD she had ever seen.

Hyundai Engineering and Construction, the company responsible for the cable work was found “100 per cent liable for the accident” by Justice Woo after the May 2014 trial. But Hyundai took issue with Ms Siew’s original claim for $26 million in damages, broken down into $2.6 million for pre-trial and $11 million for post-trial medical and hospital expenses.

Hyundai’s lawyer, Mr Michael Eu of United Legal Alliance, described this amount as “staggering”. It was 13 times the highest award of damages by a Singapore court for a personal injury claim. Mr Eu added that the figure should give anyone “pause for thought”. The highest claim was in 2000, when $1.7 million was awarded to a foreign engineer C. Philip, who was paralysed after the motorcycle he was on collided with a pick-up truck.

The $26 million figure was slashed to $8.65 million after the judge questioned the evidence and documentation over some of the claims, which include claims for $52,800 in taxi fares and $499,040 in childcare support for her son who was born after the accident.

Said Justice Woo: “There was also no elaboration to match each and every consultation and treatment with her PTSD. She was simply asking the court to infer that the hospitalisation and every consultation and treatment were all attributable to her PTSD.

“While it is true that many of her medical issues were attributable to her PTSD, she should have done more to establish that each and every consultation and treatment and the need to be warded in hospital each time and the duration were attributable to her PTSD.”

The court awarded her $2,085,091.70 for medical and hospital expenses and $51,680 for caregiver costs and $2,500 for equipment and mobility aids.

But this was after some drastic cuts:

 

Medical and hospital expenses: from $2,629,742.32 to $2,085,091.70

For the 15 different clinics and hospitals Ms Siew visited, the court awarded her $2,085,091.70.

She wanted $2,629,742.32 for treatments received at the various clinics and hospitals but the judge rejected the expenses incurred for one clinic, the Centre for Creative Development. Ms Siew had consulted a psychologist, Dr Chew Chou, at this clinic but had not proven that it was “reasonable” to, said the judge, who concluded that the $64,732 bill should not be borne by Hyundai.

As for the hospital bills, the judge allowed Ms Siew 80 per cent of what she claimed. Hyundai had tried to argue that Ms Siew failed to show all her hospital expenses were due to her accident. However, Justice Woo said that the fact that Ms Siew’s “host of medical issues” arose from her PTSD was not in dispute. “Furthermore, it appears that she was in reasonably good health before the accident,” said Justice Woo.

For her treatment at Gleneagles Hospital, Ms Siew’s $318,960.34 claim was reduced to $255,168.27, while her $2,080,632.77 claim for Mount Elizabeth Hospital was reduced to $1,664,506.22.

While the defendant argued that Ms Siew should have sought treatment at a restructured hospital, and incurred hospitalisation expenses “unreasonably” by refusing to do so, Dr Sim felt that her patient would not get the attention she needed in a restructured hospital.

The defendant’s psychiatrist, Dr Lim Boon Leng, who saw Ms Siew twice, had also said that it was not advisable to transfer Ms Siew in the midst of her stay at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, adding that the action was best taken when Ms Siew was in a stable condition. However, he did not specify when.

During Ms Siew’s stint in the hospitals, she had not only stayed in single rooms, but executive single rooms or suites on various occasions. “This was not justifiable,” said Justice Woo. However, Ms Siew subsequently limited her claims to charges for a single room only.

 

Caregiver expenses: from $1,444,812 to $51,680

Ms Siew’s son was born on April 19, 2010, six months after the accident. However, she said she was unable to care for him.

Ms Siew had argued that her mother could not have cared for the son without the assistance of caregivers. According to the judgement, Ms Siew’s mother is a highly anxious woman who was also a patient of Dr Simon.

While the court awarded her $51,680 for her own full-time domestic helpers and part-time caregivers, for a period of 76 months, it didn’t give her anything for her newborn son’s alleged part-time caregivers.

Ms Siew had originally submitted a list of 25 names of caregivers for herself and her son in court documents, however, Justice Woo said that this was a “bare list of names with no other details”. The judge added that Ms Siew had failed to provide “evidence of alleged payments to part-time caregivers for herself” which was “unsatisfactory”.

As for her son’s caregivers, Justice Woo added that there was “no documentary evidence to support the claim that part-time caregivers were in fact engaged to care for her son”.

 

Equipment and mobility aids: from $34,476.60 to $2,500

Ms Siew had submitted claims for 17 items, apart from four electrical scooters and four electrical wheelchairs which she purchased. The scooters and wheelchairs were apparently billed in the hospital charges, but the judge pointed out that the description was too vague, adding that the damages awarded for hospital bills would cover this expense.

The other 17 equipment included healthcare items such as surgical masks, hot and cold packs, and cervical rolls. However, Justice Woo noted that Ms Siew’s physiotherapist had not recommended some of the items, while others he did recommend were not necessary.

Furthermore, Ms Siew didn’t produce any receipts for the items.

Said Justice Woo: “I will allow $2,500 only for this sub-category, using a broad-brush approach for items she may have paid for but the receipts were lost.”

 

Taxi expenses: from $52,800 to $6,600

Between April 21, 2014 and February 29, 2016, Ms Siew claimed she had made 480 taxi trips amounting to $52,800 while visiting doctors and the physiotherapist. This was based on a quotation for taxi charges for a person using a wheelchair, which was $110 for a round trip. Yet, Ms Siew was unable to produce receipts for her claims.

Justice Woo pointed out that if Ms Siew was hiring taxis on a regular basis, she should have made arrangements with a taxi company that could have provided her with an invoice.

There was also a lack of corroborating evidence that showed Ms Siew had to take a taxi each time she went for her medical treatments, said the judge. In the end, the judge allowed Ms Siew $300 per month for 22 months, which amounted to $6,600.

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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by Wan Ting Koh

TO MR Jerome Lau, the KiasuParent controversy was “a bit blown out of proportion”.

Whether the mother chose to withhold the Nintendo DS from her son is entirely up to her, as it’s “the right of the parent”, the father-of-two said. Besides, the child’s score may not be the reason for withholding his toy.

“Whether you score or don’t score may be one of the reason but the main cause is the kid doesn’t know how to control himself. If you don’t know how to control, [even if] you score 280, I would also take your DS,” said Mr Lau.

Mr Lau is one of the filmmakers of Juanzi2: PSLE-Go, a 25-minute film revolving around two PSLE students coping with their exams. One of the students, 12-year-old Zihui, is stricken by the fear of disappointing her parents.

Juanzi2 was first screened on Nov 10, some two weeks before the actual PSLE results were released last Thursday (Nov 24). Mr Lau said he and fellow filmmaker Stanley Yap wanted to bring across the message that understanding a child is important, and that parents and educators should not judge a child’s success based on examination results.

Mr Lau is one of an emerging group of parents who feel that too much focus is being put on PSLE results and other academic pursuits. Recently, another group called 100 Voices came together to spread the message that there are more ways to achieve success outside of academics. Mr Lau joined the group in the second week of November, saying that it was sending “the right message”.

As for the film, it was a personal project for Mr Lau in more ways than one. The 39-year-old’s son was also one of those receiving their results last week. His son did “okay”, said Mr Lau, with a T-score of 243, which fell within an expected range. He added, however, that his 12-year-old son could have put in more effort in his preparation.

But beyond its message, the film gave Mr Lau an opening to talk about suicide with his kids. “It gets the conversation started and they are more aware and they know that we are always there for them and that they can always talk to us,” said Mr Lau.

We asked Mr Lau five questions about the film and what he hoped other parents can learn from it.

 

1. What is your takeaway from making the film, and how will it change the way you teach your children?

One of the key takeaway from making this film was that the topic of teenage suicide is a taboo subject that our society should really open up and discuss more. There are many factors contributing to the increasing trend of teenage suicide and one of which is the academic pressure faced by our children and expectations weighed on them by the parents which we covered in our film.

In terms of my own parenting, it doesn’t change how I will teach my children which is to raise them with the right values and character.

 

2. What do you think is needed to change the mindset of parents and children?

I think many things are needed but the important thing is to have the parents themselves see that they actually do have a choice in how they want to raise their children and not compare with others and trying to meet or better the “norm”.

 

3. How important do you think PSLE is for children, and why?

For all who have gone through the Singapore education system, at 12 years old, all of us knew that PSLE was the most important milestone at that age. It’s still important because it’s part of our education system and it allows our children to evaluate themselves at that point in their journey so they can choose how to continue their education journey at a pace where their potential can be best fulfilled.

This sounds like some motherhood statement but there is wisdom in the system simply because like most things in society, we have limited resources and we need to maximise what we have to benefit the most people.

 

4. What would you say to parents who insist that PSLE and academics are the only indications of a child’s success?

My advice is that no one factor should determine a child’s success. In fact, I don’t believe we should even judge our child at all. A child is still developing and learning things every single moment and it’s unfair to say if they are successful or a failure.

In fact, I don’t believe we should even judge our child at all.

To me, a child is a reflection of the parents yet the parents cannot be fully responsible for their child’s development. All the parent can do is to teach and guide their child and help them grow and discover themselves.

 

5. What advice do you have for parents whose children will take PSLE in the future?

For parents, please spend time to understand your child and their strengths and weaknesses and their interests. PSLE doesn’t mean the child has to stop doing everything and only focus on the preparation. Just like us adults, we need our own space and time to do the things that we like and enjoy doing.

No one can work for long hours, seven days a week for a long period of time doing the same thing over and over again. Balance is key to PSLE preparation!

 

You can watch Juanzi2: PSLE-Go for free here

 

Featured image a screenshot of  Juanzi2:PSLE-GO film.

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by Wan Ting Koh

WHEN the train captain and assistant engineer were fired, netizens complained that they were merely the fall guys for SMRT’s top management.

Well, now one of SMRT’s top men is being charged – along with the sacked engineer and the train operator itself.

Eight months have passed since two SMRT employees were killed in an accident on the Pasir Ris train tracks in March this year, and finally, some action is being taken in the courts.

Rail operator SMRT and two of its employees were charged this morning over the accident. The two employees are SMRT’s director of control operations Teo Wee Kiat; and Lim Say Heng, the engineer who was also the officer-in-charge of the work team that went onto the tracks.

Teo and his employer, SMRT Trains, are accused of failing to take necessary measures to ensure the safety of the workers. Lim was charged with causing death by a negligent act.

According to The Straits Times (ST), the train operator is expected to plead guilty to contravening the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

The court alleged in its charge sheet that SMRT failed to ensure that its employees complied with approved operating procedures when accessing the track between Tampines and Pasir Ris MRT stations. It also did not ensure that the procedures practised by its employees to access the track passed safety audits, were documented and disseminated.

These actions allegedly led to the deaths of Mr Nasrulhudin Najumudin, 26, and Mr Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari, 24, who were part of a 15-member team that was investigating a possible fault involving a signalling device on the tracks on March 22. The two trainees were killed by a train that was entering Pasir Ris Station.

In April, an SMRT-appointed review panel, which reviewed SMRT’s findings, concluded that a critical safety measure was not applied that day, which “directly” caused the accident. Watchmen who were supposed to watch for approaching trains were also not deployed that day. 

After an internal disciplinary inquiry in September, SMRT dismissed two staff – train captain Rahmat Mohd, 49, who was driving the train that hit the men, and an assistant engineer. According to CNA, Lim was sacked by SMRT in September over the incident.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers said in a statement released today that investigations were ongoing to determine if other individuals are liable for workplace safety lapses in connection with the incident.

The National Transport Workers’ Union also released a statement saying that it would ensure Lim was fairly represented. The Union’s Executive Secretary Melvin Yong said: “Whilst we cannot comment on any ongoing legal proceedings, the union maintains that it is important to allow due process to take its course and all facts to be revealed before drawing any conclusions.”

The cases will be heard in a pre-trial conference on Dec 30.

If convicted, SMRT Trains faces a fine of up to $500,000 while Lim faces a jail term of up to two years and a fine. His colleague, Teo, faces a fine of up to $200,000 and/or a jail term of up to two years.

 

Read the other articles on the SMRT incident here:

  1. SMRT double death tragedy: Driver sacked – but why?
  2. Fatal train accident: MOM has asked SMRT about dismissal of two workers

 

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